Freelancer Spotlight: Susan Shain

Freelancer Spotlight: Susan Shain

Finance Writer, Author, Founder of Where to Pitch.

Ron Toledo

Nov 1

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The Kalo Freelancer Profile series highlights the best and brightest in the independent workforce. 

Name: Susan Shain
Location: Always on the move.
Skills: Writing, eating, doing the worm.
Expertise: Financial, travel, and food writing.
Find me: Website, LinkedIn, Twitter
Everything else: Founder of Where to Pitch, Author of The Ultimate Guide to Seasonal Jobs.

About Susan

How long have you been freelancing?
I've been freelancing now for 7 years, including in-house stints at The Penny Hoarder and Student Loan Hero.


Why did you become a freelancer?
Since traveling and writing are two of my greatest passions, freelancing was the perfect way to earn money on the road.


How has being a freelancer changed your life?
It’s given me more freedom than I ever could’ve dreamed of. Thanks to my incredible clients and editors, I’m able to work where and when I want. I also get to write wide-ranging content that helps and inspires people, which is just icing on the cake.


Workflows and Habits

What does your typical workday look like?
I usually start my day around 7 am. I write for most of the morning, and leave interviews, research, email, and administrative tasks for the afternoon.


Do you have a quirky habit or workflows?
Not really! Since I travel so much, it’s hard to develop super specific habits. But before sitting down to write, I always pause my inbox, silence my phone, open up a new window, and then work in 25-minute pomodoro spurts. 


What's your workspace setup look like?
I would love love love to have a cushy ergonomic setup, but because my workspace changes with the day, I make do with a Roost laptop stand and wireless mouse and keyboard. (Otherwise my neck is very unhappy at the end of the day!)

What’s your favorite place to freelance from? 
I get a real thrill from finding a light-drenched coffee shop in a new place, and typing away while the city lives and breathes around me. It reminds me why I started this whole freelancing thing in the first place. 


What is the first action you take when you start your workday?
I know all the productivity experts say you’re not supposed to check email first thing, but my soul is weak and I do it anyways. After answering emails from clients (and, ok, checking Twitter), I dive into my most important writing task of the day.

What’s an app or tool in your toolkit that makes your work life easier? [besides Kalo].
Oh boy, I could go on about tools for hours. Here are a few of my favorites: Pocket, Marinara, Screen Shader, News Feed Eradicator. (You’ll find more of my favorite writing resources here.)


Freelancing Lessons Learned

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on?

I had a blast researching and writing this story for The New York Times: The Rise of the Millennial Prenup.


Biggest challenge freelancing? 
Finding the time to do an excellent job for my clients while also taking care of myself, my passions and my personal writing needs. I've had to learn to say no a lot more.


Best piece of advice you’ve been given that helped your freelance career?
Make editors love you. As a freelance writer, editors are the gatekeepers of your career. And if you make them love you -- by turning in clean copy, always being on time, and just generally being easy to work with -- it’ll pave the way to success. 


What’s your best advice for other freelancers just starting out?
Spend a little extra money to get a professional looking website (all you need is a pretty Wordpress theme). We all judge companies by their internet cover, and freelancers are no different. So make sure your site looks good!

What advice do you have for freelancers who are struggling with keeping on top of their workload?
If you’re drowning in work, you’re probably saying yes to too much. No judgment; this is something I still struggle with. One simple (but not necessarily easy!) way to lighten your workload is to raise your rates.


How do you find balance and keep your freelance career separate from your regular life? 
I love writing, so it doesn’t bother me when my career blends with my life. But as a total morning person, I’m pretty much useless after 5 pm, so that creates a pretty nice boundary. I also love the outdoors, so I try to spend a  few weeks a year in a remote destination with my phone (and brain) turned off. Cooking is a personal hobby of mine, so I get really excited about trying new recipes -- especially from cuisines I’ve sampled during my travels. There’s nothing better than bringing friends together over a meal.


Experience with Kalo

Describe Kalo in your own words using only three words? 
Simple, efficient, fast.

Favorite thing about Kalo?
That I don’t have to send invoices after submitting my stories.

How has Kalo helped you with payment and being paid on time?
When an editor approves my task in Kalo, it automatically generates an invoice; as soon as my invoice is approved, a check gets sent. It’s totally hands-off on my end -- and I never have to chase clients for payment!


I’m willing to bet Kalo has saved me many hours of admin time  each week. And every hour I’m not doing admin work is another hour I can spend helping clients!

The Future of Freelancing


What's a common misconception about freelancing?
That you need connections or a background in journalism. Rather, the most important factors are talent, drive, and grit. You can nurture talent by writing and reading a lot, and you need drive and grit because there will be many failures along the way. With those three things (and, of course, some luck), you've got a great shot.


What's your outlook on the future of work and freelancing?
It seems like more and more people are embracing the flexibility of freelancing -- whether that's by choice or necessity, I'm not sure. But as the freelance economy grows, I hope more companies begin to view us as trusted extensions of their teams -- rather than disposable workers without a stake in their success.